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More depressing news. It looks like the rumor that the president was going to nominate Ernest Moniz to head the Department of Energy is well-founded.

The president will also nominate MIT scientist Ernest Moniz to head the Energy Department and EPA veteran Gina McCarthy to run the environmental agency.

Moniz, 69, oversees MIT's Energy Initiative, a research group that focuses on innovative ways to produce power while curbing greenhouse gas emissions. But unlike outgoing Energy Secretary Steven Chu, he is also well-versed in the ways of Washington, having served as the Energy Department's undersecretary in the Clinton administration.

Moniz has also advised Obama on central components of the administration's energy plan, including a retooling of the country's stalled nuclear waste program, energy research and development, and unconventional gas.

As I noted yesterday, this is an ugly development. Ernest Moniz has been leading an oil and gas industry initiative at MIT to sell hydraulic fracturing as safe and shale gas as the perfect bridge fuel.
That professor, nuclear physicist Ernest Moniz, is director of the MIT Energy Initiative, a research arm that has received more than $125 million in pledges from the oil and gas industry since 2006, according to the Public Accountability Initiative, a non-profit that blew the whistle on UBuffalo.

The four “founding members” of MITEI — BP, Shell, Italy’s ENI and Saudi Aramco — each agreed to pay $25 million over five years for the right to help manage research projects, maintain an office at MITEI headquarters and “place a researcher in a participating MIT faculty member’s lab,” according to the MITEI website. Ten “sustaining members” commit $5 million each for fewer rights, but still get seats on MITEI’s executive committee and governing board.

Moniz also lead the publication of a report in 2011 that has become the playbook of the shale gas industry, "The Future of Natural Gas."
“The Future of Natural Gas” was a magnum opus that crowned natural gas as the “bridge to a low-carbon future.” It cited vast new supplies of cheap, clean-burning gas from shale drilling and recommended a switch from coal to natural gas in U.S. electric power generation, industry and transportation.
Of course, Moniz and company discounted evidence of substantial methane emissions from shale gas drilling operations.

The spin of the nomination is that we should ignore his record leading an industry sponsored public relations campaign for the shale gas industry. The Energy Department, we are told, has "no jurisdiction over fracking policy." It is far more concerned about nuclear waste, energy development laboratories, and energy efficiency.

More than 60 percent of the Energy Department’s budget is devoted to maintaining the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile and managing cleanup efforts at sites such as the decommissioned plant in Hanford, Wash., that earlier produced material for nuclear weapons. The department also funds national laboratories, sets appliance standards and aids state-level energy efficiency programs
I am sorry if I find the appointment of an oil and gas industry apologist to a cabinet level position to be a less than positive development. It signals that the administration's plan to address climate change centers around shale gas and nuclear power.
Driven by concerns about climate, Moniz favors nuclear power despite the catastrophe that Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami inflicted on that country, in part by destroying its Fukushima nuclear power plant.

“It would be a mistake ... to let Fukushima cause governments to abandon nuclear power and its benefits,” he wrote in a Foreign Affairs article in late 2011. “As greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere, finding ways to generate power cleanly, affordably, and reliably is becoming an even more pressing imperative. Nuclear power is not a silver bullet, but it is a partial solution that has proved workable on a large scale.”

He has said that he favors federal assistance to build several new nuclear power plants this decade to give industry a better idea of economic costs.

In a tight federal budget, lets spend a few dozen billion to build new nuclear power plants.

Update: Courtesy of Transcript Editors

I’m proud to nominate another brilliant scientist to take his place -- Mr. Ernie Moniz.  There’s Ernie right there.  (Applause.)

Now, the good news is that Ernie already knows his way around the Department of Energy.  He is a physicist by training, but he also served as Under Secretary of Energy under President Clinton.  Since then, he’s directed MIT’s Energy Initiative, which brings together prominent thinkers and energy companies to develop the technologies that can lead us to more energy independence and also to new jobs.

Most importantly, Ernie knows that we can produce more energy and grow our economy while still taking care of our air, our water and our climate.

Emphasis added. That is a very poor description. The MIT Energy Initiative was funded by energy companies and the reports produced were shaped by those same companies.
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Comment Preferences

  •  Obama's second term will be even more neoliberal (8+ / 0-)

    than his first, only smarter in how it goes about it. He's appointing either outright neolibs like Moniz, Lew and Burwell, or well-liked figureheads like Kerry and Hagel to implement his neoliberal policies.

    But DOMA and DADT will be repealed so it's all good.

    "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

    by kovie on Mon Mar 04, 2013 at 08:14:53 AM PST

  •  It is painful, but necessary that the US (0+ / 0-)

    utilizes as many domestic sources of energy as possible -all forms of energy are interchangeable. There are obvious downsides to fracking and nuclear energy, but what this country -  you and I - cannot continue to do is to spend almost $4.00 a gallon for gas. This over-the-top price for gas is controlled by an international cartel of gas producers that is like a economic fifth column.

    The US must reach for energy independence if we hope to achieve economic stability. Yes, there is a cost, but consider the trade-off when you fill-up your gas tank at a weekly cost of $40-$50-$60.

    •  Shale gas and nuclear power (5+ / 0-)

      do not solve the high price of transportation fuels. Nor do tar sands pipelines.

      The cost of gas is pegged to global commodity pricing of oil.

      The major problem with nuclear power is that we have never solved the waste issue in the past 70 years. Water use and contamination, and engineering integrity are also issues. Even if failures are rare, they can be catastrophic.

      Be radical in your compassion.

      by DWG on Mon Mar 04, 2013 at 08:35:03 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I couldn't disagree more! (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DWG, marina, northsylvania, AoT, chimene

      The path you recommend is environmental disaster.  We must have leadership to speak truth to us about our fossil foolishness.  Traveling further down the path of carbon-based fossil fuel will doom our economy from ever increasing calamitous worldwide weather events that cost billions.  

      Nuclear is already an unviable option economically even with the immense subsidies it currently enjoys.  

      Energy independence is a laudable goal if done in the correct way.  We need a national effort to convert our energy sources from fossil fuel based to non-polluting renewable.  Through efficiency measures, conservation, and proper investments in such things as smart grid, off-shore wind and solar it can be done.    

      If we really want to straighten out all this crap we really need to think about shit - Holy Shit.

      by John Crapper on Mon Mar 04, 2013 at 08:48:48 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Energy Indep. Through Fossil Fuels: a Chimera (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AoT

      If an energy source can be exported, then there is no reason to believe that domestic extraction means domestic use.  The market for oil is a global one with global determination of prices.

      And low oil prices through increased drilling would probably only come if the US decided to nationalize the oil industry and fix prices.  We all know that's not happening since the U.S. is none too fond of oil nationalization as our histories with Iran and Mexico can easily show.

    •  Cheap gas is not the way to a clean energy future. (0+ / 0-)

      Cheap gas is what got us on the brink of climate chaos.  People have for too long ignored the environmental cost of putting that exhaust into the air.

  •  Nuclear power on a "small" scale would be (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DWG, northsylvania

    a better idea because, as it stands now, the construction of large plants uses up more energy than the plant can produce. It's not like we have excess energy now that has to be saved for later.
    However, it is going to take some time and effort to dispell the notion that bigger is better and that monopolies of any kind are more efficient.

    Big fails. Period. Keep repeating it.

    We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Mon Mar 04, 2013 at 08:20:37 AM PST

  •  But...but...but...blame the GOP (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DWG

    Because Obama has to nominate people he can get through confirmation, and those dastardly GOP will block anybody less than a Big Oil Bankrolled Frackademic.  

    If you're not talking about what billionaire hedgefund bankster Peter G. Peterson is up to you're having the wrong conversations.

    by Jacoby Jonze on Mon Mar 04, 2013 at 08:25:08 AM PST

  •  The signals we've been getting lately (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DWG, marina, northsylvania, AoT

    on the energy front are not encouraging to say the least.  Looks as if Obama is gong to continue to go down the "all of the above" strategy.  I really hate to see the reemergence of nuclear.  A program similar to the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign needs to begin to systematically shut them down IMHO.  There was a great article in the Economist that documented in detail the physical and psychological toll the meltdowns at Fukushima have had on those still living around the nuclear facilities.  

    I keep trying to maintain my optimism in the face of this bad news we're getting.  It is critical we get energy sanity leadership from this administration now!  I'm afraid the SOTU speech is looking like plain old fashioned 1984 double speak.  

    Thanks for the excellent posts you've been doing!  

    If we really want to straighten out all this crap we really need to think about shit - Holy Shit.

    by John Crapper on Mon Mar 04, 2013 at 08:31:51 AM PST

    •  The lessons of Fukushima (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AoT

      are that catastrophes can happen even when facilities are well designed. Climate change will make siting of nuclear generators much more challenging. Fukushima shows that siting near coasts susceptible to storm surge would be a serious mistake. Ditto for flood prone areas. And siting in arid conditions is difficult because of water cooling demands. Ugh...

      Be radical in your compassion.

      by DWG on Mon Mar 04, 2013 at 08:44:06 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  It won't happen, I'm betting (0+ / 0-)

      The cost is prohibitive.

      The Atlanta-based utility formally asked regulators to raise its budget to build two more nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle (VOH'-gohl) by nearly $737 million to roughly $6.85 billion. Additional costs are possible. Companies designing and building the plant have sued the utility seeking $425 million for unexpected project costs, though the utility denies responsibility for those expenses.
  •  DOE = Dept Of Nuke Weapons (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DWG, AoT

    At it's height, 90% of it's resources were for nukes. Not sure what the current figure is.

  •  I'm not certain (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DWG, AoT

    whether DOE does have legal jurisdiction over fracking. One big  DOE role in directing energy policy is sending grants and loans to favored programs.

    For the last 4 years, the DOE dough has gone to "all of the above;" the Georgia nuke (now over budget) , the Mississippi (now over budget) and Texas gasified coal plants, the Port Arthur carbon capture project, the SE California utility-sized solar plants, the huge Oregon wind farms, solar panel plants, insulation retrofits, and so on.

    DOE's funding has made everyone a little bit happy and a little bit mad.

    My biggest worry is whether DOE will keep fighting for wind power tax breaks.

    Orly, it isn't evidence just because you downloaded it from the internet.

    by 6412093 on Mon Mar 04, 2013 at 09:21:45 AM PST

    •  Technically, DoE does not regulate fracking (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      marina, northsylvania, AoT, KenBee

      The environmental impacts are regulated by the EPA. I have two concerns. One is that Moniz has been instrumental in help sell hydraulic fracturing while at MIT, taking about $150 million in energy company cash. Two is that he is publicly talking about spending a wad of DoE cash to build several new reactions to help power companies evaluate new construction costs. In a tight budget, that money will be new allocation probably reduce spending on other programs. My fear is that clean energy R&D is going to be on the block. The Illinois "clean coal" plant is another ridiculously over-budget program. Those overrun costs are now being passed on to everyone in IL.

      Be radical in your compassion.

      by DWG on Mon Mar 04, 2013 at 09:33:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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